An incumbent Nanaimo councillor keeps hearing that city council should stay in its lane, but he’s interested in what’s happening in adjoining lanes, too.
Coun. Don Bonner is one of eight current council members seeking re-election this Saturday, Oct. 15.
The 65-year-old member of the Algonquin Nation, who owns a tech business and a publishing company, said he thinks council has set “a really good foundation” and started a lot of projects the past four years. He is interested in where those projects go next – the Nanaimo Prosperity Corporation, Tourism Nanaimo, the health and housing systems planning organization and the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association, for example. Bonner is also looking forward to next steps in implementing the city plan, particularly the environmental initiatives and some of the goals around ‘an empowered Nanaimo,’ including truth and reconciliation, arts and culture, community events and waterfront use and protection.
Around the community and the council table, Bonner hears that the city should “stay in its lane” and concentrate on roads, sewer and water, but he doesn’t wholly agree.
“The potholes get fixed, the road works, the sewer works, the water works, but that doesn’t make a city. To me, what really makes a city is the soul of the city. The arts and culture in the city, the recreational facilities in a city,” Bonner said, also mentioning that the city could be partnering with developers to build housing. “Things that aren’t necessarily in our lane. And to me, I think that’s what we should be starting to concentrate on now that we’ve got everything sort of working and moving forward.”
He said while he thinks there are a few loud people calling for change in the city’s leadership, he thinks most citizens are “relatively OK with the way things are going.” Citizens and council recognize there are issues around crime, social disorder and housing that need to be addressed, but it’s been a comparatively quieter election campaign than it was in 2018, he said.
Bonner was a “council critic” before he was a councillor, and while some parts of the job have gone the way he envisioned, there have been some surprises. For example, he campaigned to reduce the frequency of in-camera meetings, but if anything, they’ve increased, he said, and he’s never been in a single one that felt like it should have been a public meeting.
Budgeting is challenging when asset management and wage increases mean that a three-per cent tax increase is a starting point each year, he said, and he realizes property taxes have been hard on people in an era of rising home assessments. He’s interested in seeking sponsorships to try to better balance the books.
The current council came into office four years ago wanting to make change, Bonner said, and learned that civic processes can be slow.
“I understand the argument of why it needs to be like that. Reports have to be created, all this stuff has to be looked into. The last thing you want is a bunch of brand-new councillors just starting, dropping motions all over the place…” he said. “It took us four years to get here, fix the things that happened in the past, and now [we can] really hit the ground running.”
For more information, visit http://bonner.ca.